Berkeley Writers at Work: Catherine Ceniza Choy


(dramatic music) – Good afternoon and welcome. I’m Shari Huhndorf. I’m the chair of the
Department of Ethnic Studies, and it is truly my honor to be here to introduce my colleague, Professor Catherine Ceniza Choy. I’ve known Professor Choy
now for nearly seven years, and I can tell you with great authority that no one is more
deserving of this honor, being recognized as the
Berkeley Writer at Work than she is, so
congratulations my colleague. A historian by training, Professor Choy is an award winning scholar whose work focuses on the
subjects of Filipino studies, labor, international migration, adoption, and the history of nursing. She is the author of two books. Her first book, I see they’re here, so I’m going to do show
and tell, Empire of Care, nursing and migration and
Filipino American history, as an award-winning study
of why the Philippines became the world’s
leading exporter of nurses to the United States, a question that involves taking account of issues of migration,
labor globalization, and the enduring effects of colonization. And her second book, Global Families, a history of Asian international
adoption in America, Professor Choy limbs the origins of the high rates of Asian
adoptions in the United States, a story with origins in the
post World War II presence of US soldiers in Asia. Reviewers have widely praised her work for its meticulous research
and eloquent writing, as well as for challenging the stories that historians conventionally tell, calling attention to the stories that frequently fall out
of official histories, and masterfully analyzing
the ways that global forces shape the experiences of
individuals and communities. Professor Choy’s writing is remarkable for its high profile and for its range. Her intellectual curiosity
has led her down many paths, and she has written a wide range of essays on such topics as graphic
novels, films, and posters that engage issues of migration, labor, and social inequalities. She remains highly prolific, even under difficult circumstances. This was true even when she served for three years as our department chair, a job that demands every
minute you can devote to it. And I only wish that I could
be as productive as she was when she was in this role. She has lessons to teach us all whether we are beginning writers
or professional scholars. And I will be here with you
with my notebook in hand eager to learn from her. Please join me in welcoming Professor Catherine Ceniza Choy. (applause) – There. Good afternoon, it’s a
pleasure to be in your company. I wanna thank Shari for introducing you, introducing me, excuse me. I’m so grateful to be your colleague, and I greatly admire
your current leadership as our department chair. And I want to thank John Levine and the College Writing Programs
for this awesome series. really Berkeley Writers at Work. The writing process is something that means so much to me, not just my livelihood,
my career, but my life. So, it’s truly an honor to be here. I’m gonna read today from
a selection of works. And since October is Filipino
American History Month, I thought I would begin
by reading an excerpt from the acknowledgments, and the introduction of my
first book Empire of Care, Nursing and Migration in
Filipino American History, which was published by Duke
University Press in 2003, and co published by Ateneo
de Manila University press. One of the most vivid memories
of the research process for this book took place
in my aunt’s apartment in New York City. The apartment was typically abuzz with the conversations of
elders, adults, and children, because it was the main gathering place for my family to have dinner, play bingo, watch TV, and so on, however it also happened to
be the most convenient place to interview a Filipino nurse one evening. So, that evening my Lolo,
grandfather, Rojelio Ceniza, Lola, my grandmother, Soledad Ceniza, auntie Mary Hernandez,
Aunts Lucy and Vicky, cousin Brian, and my mother, patiently and quietly waited in a bedroom, as I interviewed the
nurse in the living room for over two hours. Although the interview went well, I felt bad for inconveniencing my family, however, when the interview was over, they emerged from the bedroom smiling, offering the nurse something to eat, and talking excitedly and
proudly about the project. For me this experience exemplifies the ways in which my research
was inextricably linked to family and community support, and challenges the notion that this book is a product of individual merit. I dedicate this book to
my mother, Patria Ceniza, partly because of the ubiquity of the Filipino nurse in the United States and because of the book subject matter Many people assumed that
she herself is a nurse. While her own personal history as a post 1965 Filipino immigrant certainly inform the scholarly choices I made about the research topics, her professional background
is in accounting. I dedicate this book to her for all the times she has
confronted a Filipino friend who asked her incredulously, what is Cathy going to do
with a major in history? I dedicate this book to
her for all the times she has responded to
such questions with pride about my passion for historical research. This book examines the unique
and dynamic relationship between the
professionalization of nursing, and the 20th century migrations of Filipinos to the United States. Specifically, it analyzes the creation of an international Filipino
professional nurse labor force, primarily in the historical
context of US imperialism. In doing so it asks us to re-evaluate our most cherished cultural associations and assumptions about nursing, in particular women’s selfless and seemingly innate ability to care, as well as US immigration, such as the inevitable
assimilation of all immigrants, by acknowledging the complicated histories of nursing’s role in US colonialism, and the racialization of
Filipinos in the United States. It is my hope that this
project helps us to confront the continuing legacies of US imperialism, as well as to better
understand the dynamics of contemporary US migration and labor. In US hospitals today nursing
is no longer exclusively practiced by white and black
women in white uniforms. Between 1965 and 1988, more than 70,000 foreign nurses
entered the United States, the majority coming from Asia. Although Korea, India, and Taiwan, are among the top Asian sending countries, the Philippines is by far the leading supplier of
nurses to the United States. The late 1960s marked the beginnings of a profound racial and
ethnic transformation of the foreign trained
nursing labor force in the US, when the increasing
migrations of Filipino nurses and the decades of numerical domination by foreign trained nurses from European countries in Canada. By 1989, Filipino nurses comprised the overwhelming majority, 73 percent, of foreign nurse graduates
in the United States and Canadian nurses comprised the second largest
group with 12 percent. Filipino nurses provide a
critical source of labor for large Metropolitan
and public hospitals, primarily in the states
of New York, New Jersey, California, Texas,
Florida, and Massachusetts. In New York City, Filipinos
comprise 18 percent of RN or registered nurse
staff in the city’s hospitals. Filipino nurses are also
geographically clustered in midwestern urban areas,
in particular Chicago, Although the US has been
the leading destination for Filipino nurse migrants historically, and its early 20th century
colonial relationship with the Philippines distinguishes it from
other receiving countries of Filipino nurse migrants. The international migration
of Filipino nurses is inextricably linked to the larger processes
of global restructuring, in which the increased
demands for services in highly developed countries, as well as the export of manufacturing to developing countries have contributed to increasing worldwide mobility. In 1979, the authors of a
World Health Organization, or WHO Report, observed that the
geographical distribution of the international migration of nurses was highly imbalanced. Of an estimated 15,000
nurses moving each year, over 90 percent went to eight countries, mainly to the United States,
the United Kingdom, and Canada. The authors also observed that among the nurse sending countries, the largest by far was
from the Philippines. Although the WHO Report’s observations might be read in a celebratory way, it speaks to the ability of the nurses highly skilled training to cross national and cultural borders. It also illustrates how these
professional migration flows are embedded in a global
structure of power, in which nurses from countries with comparatively even
higher nursing shortages are migrating to provide nursing care for populations of primarily
highly developed countries. According to the WHO Report, nurses are even more
inequitably distributed around the world than our physicians. When two thirds of the world’s population living in developing countries
have only a small fraction, 15 percent of the world’s nurses, international nurse migration
patterns only exacerbate the inequalities of health services, inequalities that I refer
to as an empire of care. And the second excerpt I’ll be reading is from the introduction
of my second book, Global Families, A History of Asian international
adoption in America, which was published by
New York University Press in 2013. Where did your little girl come from? I was finishing my lunch and was about to get my
one year old daughter ready to visit another part of the
Minneapolis Institute of Arts when I was taken off guard. Judging by the woman’s
age, early to mid 60s, I doubted she needed a lesson
on the birds and the bees. Thus I thought I have been asked a variation of the question
that has been posed to virtually every Asian
in the United States, whether they be newly arrived immigrants, or fourth generation Americans. Where are you from? This is a question for
which New York City, the place of my birth
is not the right answer. My family is originally from
the Philippines, I explained. My daughter is a third
generation Filipino American as well as the fourth generation Korean and Chinese American
on her father’s side. When the woman drew a blank
look, it struck me that had completely
misinterpreted her question. She wanted to know from where in Asia I had adopted my daughter. She explained that her daughter had recently adopted a
baby girl from China. It was then that I realized that the paradigm of the adopted Asian child had become so strong that
it overrode common sense. Even though I’m Asian looking, there was still the assumption that my daughter was adopted. International adoption
from Asia has transformed the racial and ethnic landscape
of the heartland of America to the point where as in the
situation I just described, it has become a social norm. According to a 2009 local news story, more than 13,000 Korean
adoptees live in Minnesota. This is the largest
number of Korean adoptees in any one place in the world. In the Twin Cities of
Minneapolis and Saint Paul the phenomenon of Asian
international adoption is especially visible, because of its predominantly
transracial nature, with primarily white of parents
adopting Asian children. During one visit with my daughter to our neighborhood playground, I observed that I was
the only non white parent of an Asian child. Asian international adoption in America is not solely a regional
phenomenon however. It has contributed to the transformation of the United States into an
international adoption nation. The United States is the toP recipient of internationally adopted children. According to the Evan B
Donaldson Adoption Institute, International adoptions in
the US have more than doubled between 1991 and 2001. In the new millennium,
Russia, Guatemala, Romania, and Ukraine are among
the top sending countries of adoptive children to the United States, however Asian children
have comprise the majority of children internationally
adopted by US citizens. Between 1971 and 2001, US citizens adopted 265,677 children from other countries. Over 156,000 of those children
were from Asian countries. Asian international adoption has also made a mark on
our national culture. It has become a powerful way to imagine contemporary US multiculturalism, because it shapes one
of the most intimate, emotionally laden and cherished
institutionS, the family. The publicity about celebrities
adopting internationally has made the American public highly aware of the possibility of
families becoming transracial In the early 21st century, for example the omnipresent publicity of
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s world’s most beautiful family formed through the international adoption, of a Cambodian boy, and Ethiopian girl, and a Vietnamese boy, in addition to their
three biological children has contributed to a popular perception of international and transracial adoption as a socially acceptable, if not desirable way to create a family. A darker, more problematic
side of international and transracial adoption
of the Asian children, works alongside these
celebratory narratives. Since the late 1990s, a
growing body of memoirs, documentary films, and anthologies by Korean American adoptees
who have come of age underscore the theme of their numerous mundane encounters with American racism. In doing so they present a more nuanced if not ambivalent picture of
Asian international adoption. In the first published anthology by and about Korean adoptees entitled Seeds from a Silent Tree, a Korean adoptee named Mee Oxon Bruining, writes about her American childhood. Adolescence is traumatic enough without being targeted for
being racially different, culturally identified as alien, and looking like no one
else, peer, child, or adult. I was stared at, harassed,
bullied, called names, insulted, threatened, and
verbally abused by other kids, younger and older on a daily
basis on the school bus, in school, stores, restaurants, and many other public
places in Rhode Island. These works remind us that the historical legacies
of anti Asian sentiment in the United States codified for example, in US immigration legislation, which targeted Asians for exclusion during the late 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century in US naturalization law that rendered Asian immigrants
ineligible for citizenship until the 1940s and 1950s, and in antimiscegenation laws in 14 states that prohibited interracial
sex and marriage between Asians and whites, until the US Supreme Court made such laws unconstitutional in 1967. These legacies persist
in more recent times. The increasing popularity since the 1960s of the seemingly positive stereotype of Asian Americans as a model minorities, in relation to negative, less than model stereotypes
of African Americans adds an additional layer of complexity regarding how race informs the phenomena of Asian international adoption. Although positive and negative stereotypes of these communities are
dehumanizing and dangerous, they’ve influenced both international and domestic adoption
in the United States. Some scholars have argued
that the stereotypes undergird a racial
preference for Asian children over African American children. Other scholars have strongly criticized international adoption by documenting and highlighting a global
market that transports babies from poorer to richer nations likening it to a form of forced migration
and human trafficking, thus Asian international
adoption is simultaneously highly celebrated and
deeply controversial. But, these international and transracial sensibilities about family making and the heated debates that they generate are not as new as they seem. They have a history. And, I’m just going to read one more, just a bit different from
my scholarly writing, but it’s from a blog post that
was published in July 2015. During that month, I
wrote weekly blog posts about the writing process. This post is for all writers who are struggling with self-doubt, the kind of doubt that
freezes you into inaction, that leaves you anxious and worn, that weighs you down with
uncertainty and fear. I have been there. And I have learned that the healthiest way to deal with our own
sabotage is to keep writing. Write down exactly what it
is you want to accomplish, a novel, a scholarly book, an essay. It is okay and sometimes
even more effective if you break down your goal into smaller more achievable chunks, a chapter, 250 words,
a paragraph, et cetera. Write consistently, ideally
most days of the week, and your actions and persistence will lead you to create works that you have not yet imagined. Several days ago, I received
a lovely email message from a librarian who I had met at the American Library Association 2015 Annual Conference. He thanked me for writing
the book Empire of Care, a book that was published
over 10 years ago. He wrote thank you for creating a work that showcases Filipino
migration and diaspora history as a subject of serious scholarly pursuit. I will continue to refer
budding scholars to that book should they ask me for
research help at the library. As I read his message, I recalled the process
of writing that book. I remembered my own bouts of self doubt during the daily grind of writing. At the time I was pregnant with my husband’s and my first child and at a particularly low
moment I thought to myself I am working so hard. I’m spending so much time on this, and no one will read this book. In hindsight, I realize that
I could not have imagined the impact of my book because
I hadn’t written it yet, because my voice was still taking shape through the act of writing regularly. Thankfully I knew what I wanted to do to finish writing this book. I wrote this down many
times in multiple ways in various journals. These written words were
material manifestations of my desires, and at some point along the way they became reminders of my ability to complete what I had started. Write down exactly what you want to accomplish with your writing, and then get there by writing it out. You will conquer your self doubt, and your voice will take flight. Thank you very much. (applause) – I wanna thank you again for agreeing to come today
and to share your work. My name is John Levine from the College Writing Programs, and it’s my pleasure and honor
to coordinate this program. I wanna thank the Morrison Library for opening their doors to us. There’s, I couldn’t think
of a more lovely setting to have this conversation, and I wanted to just talk a
little bit about the format. Now that you’ve read,
and we’ve gotten to hear a little bit of your work, I’m, we’re gonna jump into a
conversation about writing, a little bit about
research, about your work, and then at the end I’d like
to open it up to the audience to see what questions they have, anything with piqued their
interest, so you’ve been warned. So, I wanted to talk a little bit about why we invited you here, and you actually address
that in your reading, because of the variety
of writing that you do. I’ll be honest I read some of your work. I had not read your books
before I invited you. After I read the books, I
said that seals the deal. I thoroughly enjoyed
reading both of these books. – Thank you.
– And I wanna thank you for sharing, for your
making your writing process and your research process transparent. In that blog entry you just
read, it was very revealing. Many of the people in our
audience are writing students who are learning about writing, but I would venture to guess like you, there are many people who have self doubt about their own writing.
– Absolutely. – So, that was very
revealing to hear about that. Can you talk a little bit
about how you started writing? Was it once you became an academic? Did you write before that? – Let me think about this about when, because I have been writing
my whole life in some ways. As soon as I started
to learn how to write, and I actually haven’t blogged about this, but when I was in elementary school, I would carry a notebook
around, even at the playground, and I enjoyed writing poetry. or just little things
that would catch my eye. And in, I would say maybe
seventh or eighth grade I started to write more seriously. I’m not saying that it was good, but I just tried to write more seriously, and I actually sent my poetry
and some essays I wrote, to places like Seventeen Magazine, And Seventeen Magazine
rejected my pieces repeatedly, but they were so kind about it. And this is the you know the
pre internet laptop days, so I actually still have saved this note from Seventeen Magazine which
was kind of a form letter, but the editor wrote something, and you know personally thanking me for submitting a piece. And even though I was rejected, I was thrilled that I had this audience of at least maybe one person
at Seventeen Magazine. I think from that experience, I learned to confront and deal
with rejection right away, and I think because I was so young, I wasn’t so disappointed
or frustrated about it. I just told myself well, that’s okay. I’ll just keep submitting
things to other places. And, I think that really served me well, like throughout high
school and then college, as my writing became even more serious with the expectations in the classroom. I was very fortunate that
I encountered teachers who really cared about writing. And when I say they really
cared about writing, I mean that they were willing to tell me when my writing was good, and they were also willing to tell me when my writing was not so good. and I knew that they cared
because they read it. And, it was a form of
constructive critical engagement and I’m very grateful to them, ’cause that just then built through my doctoral program in History at UCLA, writing the dissertation, these books, through these more recent
blog post on writing. – Do you see a through line
from those first rejections from Seventeen magazine to
being told by writing teachers that this needs more work through your dissertation committee? The question sounds
funny, but I’m serious. I think there’s a certain predisposition about being able to accept
rejection about your writing. Do see that as, at all–
– I definitely see. I definitely see that
as a common experience. And rejection sound so negative, but I really, I think I
took it more as feedback, you know, that they
were willing to listen, to read, and to give me feedback, and I could build upon that, but I’m not sure maybe even back then, maybe even at an earlier age, I also think I understood that rejection, feedback, criticism is part of the process, but that I also need to
honor my voice and who I am, and I can’t write the way
someone else wants me to write, but I can certainly listen and
learn from people’s feedback. – Interesting. I was gonna ask about this later, but yeah it’s a natural
place to bring it in. So, you’re giving
feedback to other people, colleagues, students,
is it the same thing? Are you aware of what kind
of feedback you’re giving, when you’re giving the
feedback, et cetera? – Yes.
– Yes, yes. – Yes, that’s the short answer. I work with them and advise and have advised a number
of doctoral students in our PhD program in Ethnic Studies. Prior to being here at UC Berkeley. I was an assistant professor
of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, and I co chaired two
dissertation committees there, and I am very conscious about that, about giving critical but
constructive feedback. And, I’m also very conscious, I don’t know how successful
this is, but this is what I try, sometimes I try to give critical feedback, and then other times I
try to just step back, and let the student also work things out for himself or herself. I think that too much, sometimes too much hands on criticism can be discouraging and frustrating. And so, I try to be encouraging, although sometimes I think people think I’m scary and discouraging. – [John] Are you able to temper it, and depending on who the person is, and perhaps with people you know, do you give colleagues feedback, peers? – I have given colleagues feedback, but the way I’ve been
doing it more recently has been anonymously. Yeah, through an online writing group. – Okay.
– And so, I know that the other people in
this writing group with me, are other faculty members, not necessarily from Berkeley, but you know, from around the world, and I don’t necessarily give feedback. We don’t necessarily share the content, but we do share process, and we try to give each
other encouragement, but sometimes also advice. – Okay, okay, I do wanna
talk about your books, ’cause I said, I found
them fascinating reads, and what holds them together
is that there’s this political socioeconomic thesis
underneath each of them. You know if someone said Filipino nurses, international adoption someone might say well it’s political, but that’s not the first
thing that comes to mind. So, what I’m wondering is when
you started these projects, did you know, did you have a thesis? Did you know what, where
you were going with it? Can you talk a little bit about how you got into each of these projects? – Sure, but to answer
the question directly, I did not have a thesis in mind actually, for either of the books. And, sometimes you have certain hunches, but I have to say that didn’t happen to me with these projects. I’m very much a researcher scholar who becomes interested in a topic for scholarly but also
for personal reasons. And, when I approach a research project, I really try to cast
a wide net in terms of what I might find. I really try to keep an open
mind as much as possible. And, I look for things that surprise me. I have found that that’s very productive in historical research, that often times that’s
what surprises you, like puzzles, contradictions, that can be most original insight, you know, you could have. So, I didn’t have a
strong thesis at first. And I have to say, I mean Empire of Care was first my dissertation, and
then I revised it into a book during my first few years at
the University of Minnesota. And, I kept this journal about the process to just help me vent, because I’m certain point
you know, your partner and your friends can only
take that so much, you know. So, I would vent in this journal, and one of the recurring themes would be, I have no idea what I’m doing. as I’m interviewing these nurses, as I’m auditing a nursing
class in the Philippines, as I am visiting this nursing
special collections in Boston. And, somehow out of this
process of doing the research, and reading, and most of all the writing, I think the argumentation
became clearer to me, but it was not something
I had started out with, similar too, with the
adoption book as well. I honestly, I had started that project, because as I was reading
from that excerpt, I was in Minnesota, I was encountering Korean adoptees in my Asian American Studies classes. And so, I had approached this project, really about Korean
international adoption. And then when I went into the archive, I realized that there
were many other histories, of Asian international adoption, from Japan, from Hong Kong, that I felt was not yet being discussed about in scholarship, and that surprised me, and fascinated me. And so, it was again,
in the act of research, and writing, and rewriting
that the argumentation for Global Families became more clear. – Yeah and that’s another
thing I love about this book. And you shared that, the opening anecdote, about being someone
assuming that your daughter, because she look Asian
that she was adopted. It’s, just to dissect a little bit, it’s an entry into the book,
into the story, it invites us, and yet it’s so telling of what your book actually gets into. And then in the book we have appearances by Jane Russell, and Pearl S.
Buck, and just to name a few. So, you take us through this odyssey, and yet there is, you’re
constantly reminding us that this is not just a story of adoption. This is a story about
politics, of colonialism, especially in the nursing book. And, the other thing I
wanted to talk about, you mentioned in your
in your opening reading, about how the research for this was a very personal journey for you. I mean you were conducting your research, hands on research in
your aunt’s apartment, and the rest of your
family made room for you. And I think a lot of at least
beginning research students think of research as this sterile process that happens in a dust lib-, we’ll back in the old days it
happened in a dusty library, not that there’s any dust
in the Morrison library, but or online, and they I think too often it’s misperceived as
not a personal process. Would you say that that is,
has it been your experience that research is, it has to
come from a personal place? – I don’t think it necessarily has to come from a personal place in the sense that you have experienced this personally, but I actually think that many scholars are motivated by some
kind of personal reason, and I say this as I think
this idea of being motivated by personal experience is quite common, in the interdiscipline of ethnic studies. I think many scholars are motivated by seeing such major gaps in scholarship, and historical scholarship
which is what I do, And, they don’t see themselves there. They don’t see their families. They don’t see their communities
and I’m motivated by that. And I know that that’s not just true for ethnic study scholars, because I have encountered
other historians who do immigration or political history, and there is some kind
of personal connection. even though they may
not call attention to it – When you’re writing, whatever
the project happens to be, do you have an audience in mind? Do you have an ideal audience in mind? And, it may be different for
different, differing projects. – Yeah, that’s a great question, and you know that’s something, excuse me, when I was a graduate student writing, and you’re writing your dissertation, your audience is really
your dissertation committee. You know, chances are it’s, no one else is gonna read it in general. And one of the things
that was different for me, when I was revising the
dissertation into a book was the publishers I was working with. And, these are University Press, you know this is scholarly publishing, not trade publishing, but they said to me, you have to keep in mind your audience. You know, who’s your audience? And, I guess I hadn’t thought about it, to be perfectly, to be honest, in such a serious conscious way, but I realized that that was
very important for that book. And when I was writing Global Families, I think I definitely had more of a specific audiences in mind, certainly the community of
adoptees, adoptive parents, social service agencies
working on adoption. I had that community in mind. I also had the community
of Asian American studies and ethnic studies scholars in mind, because I felt that adoption
studies had been marginalized in those fields when it shouldn’t be. So, I do think about it a bit. – And do you have a different
audience when you’re writing, say an academic journal
article as opposed to, I mean, both of these
books are very accessible, you know whether or not
you’re in that niche of those groups you’ve
mentioned, it’s very accessible. So, is there, do you have a different? I mean, I’ll just be blunt. Is there, do you use jargon when you write for an academic journal? I mean, we don’t think of it as jargon. You know, is there a difference
in the language you use? – Yeah, I in general, even though I know that for a for a scholarly journal articles, that the audience is gonna
be much more specialized. So, I do have that in mind, where I don’t necessarily
have to explain things the same way I would
explain things in my books. But that said, this issue
of accessibility in writing is really important to me. It’s something that I value very much. And, I keep that in mind in
all the writing that I do, from the blog posts, to grant proposals, to the books. And even though the books
are scholarly books, trying to be cognizant of jargon, and trying to say things in a simple, but also meaningful way
is very important to me. – Does that happen in revision? Do you find yourself making
things more accessible in your own as you go through drafts? – Yes, I do that in revision. I also did something a bit
different, in Empire of Care, I interviewed over 40 Filipino
nurses for Empire of Care. And, one of the things I did, when I was revising the
dissertation into a book was, I sent each and everyone of them a draft of the book manuscript, the entire manuscript. And, that’s not the traditional
protocol to do that, but I did that because many of these women were still alive, and many had agreed to
use their real names. And I wanted, it meant a lot to me that they would be portrayed
with dignity, humanity. And so, I did that. And so, accessibility to
the broader community, such as Filipino nurses in this case, is something that I highly value. – Yeah, yeah, I’m gonna
shift gears a little bit, because I did mention that you
have a variety of writings. From a, I told you a bit
early, a piece that you wrote, which I was really taken with is a creative non-fiction piece.
– Yes. – I’m trying to find it here, about watching your
daughter learn how to dive. – Yeah, learning how to swim, and learning how to jump into a pool. – Can you talk a little bit about the evolution of that piece? How did that come about? And also, is that a different process than writing Empire of Care, than writing a scholarly article? – Yeah I do think I, yes, I do think it’s a different process. I even though I struggle with
my writing like many writers, I love writing and the
things I want to write about cannot always be contained
in scholarly books. So, I have this experience
as you were mentioning observing at my daughter
who was maybe five, six years old at the time,
learning how to swim, and she was learning how to swim in this public pool here in Berkeley. And I was just thinking as a historian, I was watching this as a
mother, but also as a historian, that how grateful I was that she had this accessibility to
the public swimming pool, because I know that that was not available to people of color
throughout the 20th century. And I know that for Filipino young people, which my daughter is of Filipino descent that that was not available to them. They swam in segregated
places in the 20s and 30s, and it made me appreciate
the moment that much more. And I felt like I needed
to write about it, to share both my personal joy at seeing her learn swimming,
which is an incredible skill, but also that appreciation of swimming in historical context. – [John] And when you began that essay, did you know what it was about? Did you know that okay I can see, I can tell the story of my
daughter learning to swim, and yet it has all of
these other implications? Or, did you discover part
of that during writing? I don’t know if you remember the process. – Yes, I do remember at the very beginning I wanted to acknowledge
the historical context that I just talked about, but there was something
else that was motivating me, which was Asian American history, and how being a parent, an
Asian American parent myself and raising Asian American children, how I’ve had to confront from my children, questions like Mommy, even though they’ve primarily
grown up here in Berkeley, Mommy, are we black,
are we black or white? And, I guess when I was in
that, watching my daughter, that question was haunting me. And so, I used that essay to talk about personal experience in historical context, but also how marginal Asian American History continues to be, even though we’ve made great strides, but we still have a lot of work to do, especially in K through 12. So, there were so many things going on that I knew I wanted to write about, and yes they came together in that. – [John] And, you wrote
them in, beautifully. A little bit about your writing process, yourself if you don’t mind.
– Sure. – [John] When do you write, and is it the same time every day? – Definitely not at the
same time every day. – Okay.
– What I, my ideal time is first thing in the
morning, before I check email, or Facebook, or something like that. I find that to be very productive and I feel good about that. – And you heard it here,
scholars do use Facebook. (laughter) – Yes, but it doesn’t
always happen that way, despite my best intentions. And so, actually on one of the blog posts I wrote about writing, one of the strategies that I shared, is we ought to write
whenever we can write, whether it’s the first
thing in the morning, or it’s just 15 minutes in between, you know lunch and an office hour, or whether it’s just half an hour before more social media
feed in the evening. And it all adds up and it
all counts and it’s all good. – Okay so you don’t have
to have a four hour block. You don’t have to have a day of writing to be able to get some writing done. – Right, I actually think that’s a misconception or misperception. I think many of us including
myself have thought that that in order to be productive I need like a lot of time like right now. I need this four hour block, but rarely do we have
that four hour block. And even when we do have it, I think many of us find that
we didn’t get as much done, as we thought we would. – And then we beat ourselves up. – Yes, and then we become
victims of our own sabotage. – That’s right.
– So, the way to do it, is to write when you can, and even those short bursts
of writing, they count. And they they can actually
surprisingly be more productive, so don’t underestimate.
– Interesting. Are you able to write everyday? – I think I’m able, but I don’t.
– Okay. – I’ll just be honest about it. I think I could write
everyday, but I don’t. Like everyone else, I
feel a little burned out, or I’m just doing other things, or I feel a little bit overwhelmed, but I try to write every
day and most days I do. – Okay, so with those
20 or 30 minute bursts, if that’s all you have, does
that make you a faster writer? Would you, if I asked if
you were a fast writer, or a slow writer, or somewhere in between? Would you be able to put
yourself on a spectrum? – Yeah, I would definitely
say somewhere in between. I would say somewhere in between, ’cause sometimes I’m able to
if there is a major deadline, or if there’s, I don’t know
I have been in that mode where I get into that zone, and things happen with my writing. And the blog post were
really fun in that sense, because I felt as though
I’m not gonna spend 10 years writing a blog post. So, there’s this finite piece of time, and here’s the afternoon
and I’m gonna do this. And it’s gonna get done. – [John] Okay, good. What’s the most challenging
part of writing for you? What would you say, what do
you what do you grapple with the most in your writing process? – I think the hardest part of writing is an aspect of scholarly writing. This is something I
don’t encounter as much with my blog posts, but as a historian having to
synthesize so much of the data or the primary sources that we use, synthesize that with the
scholarly conversations that have taken place or are taking place about the topic at hand, and then trying to include
my own original insights. I think that process of
weaving those things together and then I do think it
takes courage to write, write that out. – [John] Would you talk more
about that courage in writing? And I agree it does take courage. – It takes courage because, you won’t get it right the first time, because what you’re
writing is probably not going to be that great initially. It’s not going to be
original or interesting. And I think that confrontation with a very human side of ourselves, as having to work through something, the writing and revision is
very difficult to confront, and I think it takes bravery and courage to get through that. – [John] Do you prefer
writing or rewriting? – Hmm … Sometimes, it just really
depends on the piece. Sometimes I like the initial writing, and other times I just hated that part. And then I’ve enjoyed the rewriting. – [John] And, does it just
depend on external factors, or is it the particular subject? – It’s the particular subject,
it’s the particular subject. – Okay, a lot of beginning
writers don’t like rewriting. I wrote it, I don’t
want to write it again, and I totally understand it. I tell my student that, yeah
this is a writing class, not a rewriting class. And, I try to tell them,
we’ve heard it all before, writing is rewriting.
– Absolutely. – Do you have a take on that, can you? – My take is that that’s
absolutely correct. That’s absolutely correct. – Did you know that when
you were writing for, when you were submitting
to Seventeen magazine when you were in seventh grade? I mean, when did that come for you? Because it didn’t come to me immediately. It was in graduate school that I finally figured it out, but. – Right, it didn’t come
to me immediately either, and I think that’s part of the reason why I got so many rejection letters is because one had to do with my own voice and lack of experience, but the other thing was
that as a young writer, I was just used to writing
something and then thinking okay that sounds about right
and then sending it off, and not realizing that yes it
should probably be rewritten, and I’m not just talking
about proofreading. I’m talking about are there better ways to articulate my major points? – And do you know at this point
when something is finished, you know when you’ve rewritten enough? – That’s a great question, because I think that many scholars, many writers, they can’t let go. They can’t let go, because I
think there’s sometimes that desire to have this is it. You know, this is the perfect
piece and I can do no better. For me I have found that,
it’s just so difficult. That’s such a high bar to set, and I see my writing as
engaging in a conversation with readers and other writers. And so, even with my books I had thought there’s more I could
do with Empire of Care, and Global Families, but I let it go. – Okay. What is your ideal writing setting? I know you may not always have it, but I mean you have a family and you have other other obligations, but ideally what’s the perfect
writing setting for you, place, time, maybe there’s
a cup of coffee, tea? I don’t know, tell tell us about it. – Okay, that’s a great question. I should write about that. My favorite writing or
ideal writing places is actually in my university office. And yes, I will have
coffee or tea with me and, I’m able to see photos of my family, and be surrounded by other things that remind me of people
and places that I love. – [John] And are you able
to, if you don’t have that, can you write elsewhere
if you are traveling, or you can’t get to your office? Are you able to write elsewhere? Say, on an airplane?
– Yes, I can. – Okay.
– And I will compel myself to write in various places. I actually think that
builds writing muscle. – [John] Hmm, okay. – I think we shouldn’t be wedded too much to that ideal place, or the
ideal time, or the ideal drink. I think we need to push
ourselves to be able to write, in various scenarios, even the
ones that may not be ideal, and to be proud of that fact and ability. – [John] And it’s so easy to make excuses, if there is no soy latte available. Well, can’t write.
– Yes. – Sorry can’t do that.
– Yes. – You mentioned you were keeping a journal when you’re working on your dissertation, and you had all of that doubt. Do you still keep a journal? – Yes, but I am not … I wish I could say I wrote in it everyday, but sometimes I don’t write
in it as much as I should, but I do keep one. I keep one as a Word document. It’s just a way of venting, of relieving my frustration, or if there’s a thought in
my mind that’s bothering me for whatever reason. If I write it down, I feel better.
– Mm-hmm, okay. And how often do you go back
and read what you wrote? Is it just–
– In the journal? – Yeah, I mean is it a
means of just venting, getting that done, and then
moving on to the real work, or do you ever have time to go back? – Usually, I don’t go back, but I think when Empire of Care came out, and I was just so thrilled. Just was thrilled, seeing it in print, I went back and I had a good laugh. – Uh-huh, okay alright. – I learned a lot about myself, and so I would encourage other
people to keep a journal, and to, of the highs and the lows. And sometimes we don’t wanna confront those lower points, but sometimes when we look back, we realize what we’ve been through, and how much stronger we become. – Mm-hmm, a lot of our students are reading composition students, and the other half of
composition is reading. Let’s talk a little bit about reading. – Yes.
– What do you read? – Well I read a lot in my
fields, and I think there’s, so one of my fields is
Filipino American history. And I’m so thrilled that
there been more books and publications in
Filipino American history. So, I do a lot of rereading, and I’ve recently reread Carlos Bulosan’s, America is in the Heart, which is a seminal Filipino
American labor history, which if people in the
audience haven’t read, you should read. And, I’ve also recently read Dawn Mabalon who is a historian at San
Francisco State University, who wrote a book called
Little Manila Is in the Heart, which is partly engaging with Carlos Bulosan’s
America Is in the Heart. It’s about the history of the development of a Filipino American community
in Stockton California. So I read Carlos Bulosan’s
America is in the Heart, so many times, but the active rereading
it is a joyful experience. – [John] Well, I’m glad
you brought that up. So, rereading it is joyful. Do you find other benefits? Does it, do you see
things in a third reading, that you didn’t see in a first reading? – Absolutely, absolutely. The first time I read Bulosan’s
America is in the Heart, I was a college student, and my immediate reaction to
the book was one of anger, because what really struck me in the book was the history of such overt racism and violence against Filipinos in California and other
parts of the West Coast in the 1920s and in the 1930s. And that anger didn’t necessarily
go away when I reread it, but I also read for the
other times you know, I read resilience in the novel. I read about friendship. I read about his own love for reading, and how reading and
writing actually for him saved him from a very dark experience. – [John] And how does reading
influence your own writing? – Well, I do, I try to emulate some of my favorite scholarly writers. And so a mentor, and one
of my favorite writers is Jorge Sanchez who’s an historian who wrote this book called
becoming Mexican American, and I really appreciated
how he organized that book, and how he with each
part he had excerpts of the historical actors that
he featured in the book, many of them being Mexican immigrants, Mexican Americans. And, I just love how we
put that front and center, and then I emulated
that in Empire of Care. I used it to help me
organize the book and to, it reminded me that those stories of the Filipino nurse migrants themselves are so important to why I
researched and wrote the book. And it gave me a model for how
to put it front and center. – [John] Interesting, interesting. Do you read anything
besides scholarly work? – Yes. – [John] Okay, would you mind
sharing other things you read? – Sure, I read some poetry. I’m currently starting to read Bao Phi. He has a new book of poetry
called Thousand Star Hotel, which is about urban Asian America, which is about cases of
continuing brutality and racism against Asian Americans, and is also about him being
an Asian American father to an Asian American daughter. So, that’s one thing.
– Okay. – I recently read Mia Alvar’s
collection of short stories called In the Country which
features short stories inspired by the global
migration of Filipinos to not just the United States,
but also to the Middle East. – Mm-hmm, do you try to
vary your reading diet, or does it just happen? Do you think, well I
need to read some poetry, because I’ve been reading
a lot of academic journal– – Yeah, it’s not so purposeful, but I do like the variety. Also, I will say that I enjoy reading, ’cause this might be surprising, I enjoy reading like personal finance. – Oh, okay now we’re getting somewhere. Okay, now tell us about that. – I just sometimes, so I
for example you can find, in Money magazine, or whether it’s like the New York Times will
have personal finance. I just think it’s important to be aware of theoretical ideas and histories, but I also think we need to think about very practical things in our lives, like money as a tool and as a resource, and how to best use that. – Okay, and I do wanna leave time for the audience to ask questions. What are you writing right now? What what topics or issues
are on your front burner? What’s on your back burner? I’m assuming you have more than one idea. – Yes, there are a number of
things that I’m working on. I think that the one thing I’ll mention is I am working on this book project of Filipino American women’s biographies. And I’ve been hoping that
this project will feature individual Filipino American women’s lives throughout the 20th century as a way to, have us think about the
impact of US colonialism in the Philippines, but also to honor and to document, and preserve the many contributions Filipino American women of
made to the United States, and to the Philippines. And, this comes from things like, one of the women I’m
looking at in S Cayaban, was a nurse, a public health nurse on Hawaiian sugar plantations
in the early 20th century, and then she became a pioneer
in cancer prevention there. Another individual I’m looking
at is Victoria Manalo Draves, who is a mixed race
Filipina American woman, who was segregated from a swimming pool and a swim club in the ’30s, and then went on to become the first woman to win two individual gold medals at the 1948 Olympics in diving events. And we should know about these women. – Yeah, right, right. Yeah, I want to open up
the floor to questions. And if you have a question,
if you could raise your hand. We have a mic that will come to you, so that we can hear the question, yes. – [Woman] Good morning, Professor Choy. Yeah, I’m from China, and I’m really interested in
your book, Global Families, A History of Asian American
Adoption in America, and from the perspective of history, this book may prove to be
the most important fact about the 20th century. You know, international adoption, this issue is very sensitive in China. We couldn’t, yeah it is really hard
for me to find such issues in newspaper. I just knew this topic in when
I studied in the South Korea. I write (speaking in foreign language), the language of the book, I do not know if you have
heard of this book or not. Yeah, I have translated
this book into Chinese, but I don’t know if I could
publish it in China or not. Then, I know there are
also a bunch of numbers of Chinese adoptive children in the USA, but you know I couldn’t
find the literary works written by these Chinese
adoptive children. I don’t know why, so could you … Do you know, do you know why we couldn’t find literary works written by Chinese adoptive children in the USA? – Okay, well I think part of it has to do with the historical time period, and there is much more work written about, by and about Korean American adoptees, because of the longer history of Korean international adoption, that many scholars including
myself locate after 1953, and after the end of the Korean War. And as a result of that you
have a much longer history, and you have multiple generations of Korean international
adoptees who have come of age in a way that with Chinese
international adoption, the one that were most familiar with is the one that’s more recent, from the late 1980s early 1990s. And we’re starting to see that, those generations come of age, and document their experiences, but it won’t be the same
as the Korean adoptees, because of the different time periods. – [Woman] Okay, then in
the Ethnic Studies Library, I found this book, Passage to the Heart, writings from families
with children from China. Now, this book is written, it’s edit by Amy Klatzkin It’s about Chinese, Chinese adoption children story, and then I wonder a Korean government implements national policy
for these adoptive children. How about Filipino government? How to deal with this
Philippine adoptive children? – Yes, these are many great questions. I’d be happy to talk with you afterwards. I’ve actually done some research on Filipino international adoption, even though I didn’t
write so much about it in Global Families, but each of those countries
has very distinct histories of international adoption. Sometimes they overlap, and sometimes they need to
be yeah, treated differently. But, thank you for your questions. – [John] And, we have
another question over here. – [Woman] Do you have a
favorite piece of work that you created and why is
that your favorite if so? – Oh, that’s a great question. It’s difficult for me to answer. It’s hard to choose just one favorite. I will say that Empire of Care will always be a very special work for me. It was my first book. It involved family and
community involvement. And, the impact of that
book was a surprise to me. So, I’m so grateful
that it has been helpful to nursing schools, to Filipino American young people who’ve grown up in families where there are many Filipino nurses and have wondered about why that is. so, it’s hard to choose another work. So, it would probably be Empire of Care. But, the one that John was referring to about my daughter in Cheers to Muses, that’s very special too
because it’s my daughter, and now it’s in print. – [John] Another question. – Hi, Professor Choy.
– Hi. – [Youth] My question is like, ’cause like growing up
as a Filipino American, like I didn’t really like
have any access to like, film and literature and stuff,
and like film and media, so they are their places where like film and literature and stuff
like they’re more accessible, not to just like Filipino Americans, but to like any like American in general? – I’m sorry, I think I don’t know. I don’t know if I heard the question. (person speaking muffled off mic) What are sources of Filipino
American literature? – [Youth] Yeah, like where
to find them and stuff? – Where to find Filipino American.
– ‘Cause I didn’t have any access to them growing up. – Oh okay, great thank you. That’s a wonderful question, Vince. It’s wonderful that we
have so many more sources of Filipino American literature available. And on our campus at the Main Library and the Ethnic Studies
Library are great resources. Our Ethnic Studies library has a section devoted to Asian American studies works. And so, you’ll definitely find Filipino American literary sources there. There’s also actually in the San Francisco Main Public Library, there’s actually a
Filipino American Center within the Main Library
that features Philippine and Filipino American works, and their new librarian, Abe Ignacio, is an alum of UC
Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies. – [Woman] Thank you, I
wanna follow up on that, very briefly.
– One last question. – [Woman] Just give a comment. I hope when you do like finish this work on the biographies of
Filipino American women that you might think about partnering with someone
to make that accessible to children like those new books that have come out recently
like for rebel girls. I think it should be for boys too. That’s just the titling of those new books with 100 biographies of women And I just wanted to ask,
what feedback if at all did you get from those 40
nurses that you interviewed when you shared your manuscript? Did any of them give you some comments? – Yes, thanks so much. First let me say that I
think it is so important that we have more diverse
children’s literature. I mean yes, some diverse
children’s literature that we should access and read, but we also need more, especially in terms of
Filipino American history, and I am actually in
discussion with someone about the possibility of that, of some of these women appearing
in children’s literature, but that’s a great question. Thank you for asking about
any follow up comments I got from the nursing themselves. I was concerned that they might find my writing inaccessible and, as a result that they
wouldn’t identify maybe, with the writing or appreciate it, but many of them actually, I was genuinely surprised by this, really appreciated that
the scholarly approach, and they had been wanting to see not just their labor
and their contributions to US healthcare delivery acknowledged, but for it to be treated with respect in scholarly
writing was important to them. I was very happy to hear that. One nurse did write me, and she said I don’t have a problem with really anything you’ve written, but when you have these
excerpts of my interview, she was so concerned that
she didn’t sound articulate, that she was not eloquent and she was concerned
that she sounded funny. And it was so interesting, because I looked back at her excerpts, and actually I thought
she was so eloquent, but I think when you’re speaking, it not the same thing
as how you would write. So, I told her I can change, or if you want me to take
something out, I will honor that, but I reassured her that she
sounded smart and informed, and that a broader audience needed to hear what she had to say. And, she said okay that’s
good enough then for me. – And unfortunately we are out of time. I wanna thank the Morrison
Library again for hosting it, and I wanna thank Professor
Choy for joining us today. – Thank you.
– Thank you. (applause)
– Thank you so very much. Thank you, thank you. Thank you so much. (upbeat music)

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